Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bibliophile Bob-A Hounds Book Review Post

The hounds are excited to introduce a new feature to our blog, book reviews.  Our mom loves to read, so book reviews are a natural choice.   We've decided to include non-fiction and fiction choices, so long as animals are featured in the book.  Our first book choice is Dog Sense by English animal behaviorist, John Bradshaw.  Below is Bob checking out his work:

 Mom took the book out of the library (got to support those libraries since our grand dad was the director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library until he retired).  Overall mom is glad she didn't buy the book because a lot of the information in it was things she already new from other books she has read and from John Bradshaw's interview in bark magazine.  Still mom liked the book and would give it a 3 and a half paw rating, out of four.

Things I (mom) liked about the book:

1.) Bradshaw points out that wolves and dog's are very different.  I have never liked the dog is a wolf theory, and pretty much all modern research into dog behavior discounts it.   Bradshaw points out that though dog's DNA is similar to wolves, they are still drastically different.  First, he provides evidence that supports that DNA does not regulate behavior.  Then he argues that dogs have been in existence for approximately 15,000 years, so they have had all that time to become very different from wolves.   Finally, he points out that our original assumptions of wolf behavior are very faulty because they are based on observations of wolves in zoos and those wolves are in an abnormal environment and thus don't behave like typical wolves in the wild.   Rather then looking to wolves for clues about dog behavior, Bradshaw suggests we look to the behavior of feral village dogs in India.  These dogs live much like dogs might have lived in early human times.   They exist in a loose pack structure, but there is no definite "alpha" dog and they don't hunt together.

2.) Since he discounts the wolf theory he is very anti the dominance/alpha theory of dog behavior.   I love this because I am not a fan of dominance/alpha theory at all, lots of abuse has been dumped on dogs for many years due to the "alpha" theory.  In Bradshaw's opinion dogs are not constantly trying to dominate humans, or each other, and  if we act like they are they fail to really understand and bond with our dogs. 

3.) He is against physical punishment.   At our house we definitely prefer the carrot to the stick approach, in my opinion positive reinforcement is how dogs, people, cats, everyone learns.  Bradshaw recommends positive reinforcement and also withdraw of attention as an aversive for a dog who misbehaves.   So if a dog is jumping up on you and you don't like it, turn away from the dog and ignore them rather then physically punish the dog.  Then when the dog is behaving again (four fleet on the floor) lavish them with the attention they crave.

4.) He wants people to lighten up their expectations on dogsBradshaw points out that we humans expect a LOT of our dogs.  We want them to behave in public at all times, to be quiet, to wait for us patiently while we are gone, to repress frustration and anxiety, etc.   Bradshaw has particularly good advice about how to train a dog to adjust to being left alone that might help dogs with separation anxiety.

5.) He's English-What can I say, I am an unrepentant anglophile so anyone from that country automatically gets points.

What I didn't like:

1.) Much of what has been said in the book has been said before and though Bradshaw does add some new things to the conversation, a lot of it felt like a rehashing of other books I've read.

Here is a link to a you tube video of Bradshaw discussing dog behavior


  1. Interesting info and thanks for the review. Hu-mom read The Purpose of a Dog and really enjoyed it.
    Sad and happy....

    Drools and licks,
    Minnie and Mack

  2. Looks like you focused in on the important details.